Appalachia/Cumberland Gap and the Northern Neck/Chesapeake Bay – two extremes of Virginia. At first glance they seem to have nothing else in common. Appalachia: Blue Ridge Mountains, turning into flat tops from strip mining. Tobacco, coal, timber – historical resources growing more scarce so the mountain folk turn to new practices such as hemp, wine, cattle, and produce (as we saw in Seminar VI). The Northern Neck and Chesapeake Bay still grows row on row of small grains and produce as it did many years ago. Fishing, crabbing, and oysters are still product of the bay, but the practices have evolved over time.
Both extremes are noted to isolate individuals from the rest of the mainland. On one hand this seems to put them “behind the times,” but in another they tend to be more independent and resilient.
Another similarity of the two is that their retraction/harvesting practices have come under scrutiny over the years by outsiders. At Omega Protein it was hard for me to comprehend at first why they were worried about picture taking and posts we might put on the internet of their company (it’s just fishing, I thought). But much like coal mining in the Appalachias and farming in general, commercial fishing is under daily attacks from media and the general public because outsiders view the practice as negative.
A very important part of our NN visit was going to Northern Neck Technical Center. Coming from Career and Technical Education and now as a Career Coach – technical centers have my heart. For places like Appalachia and the Northern Neck, technical centers train the next generation for the local workforce. They work to prepare their students for the current and changing industries around them. Unfortunately, many school systems use CTE as a “dumping ground” for low achieving or troubled students. Not at NNTC. The students must apply and be vetted to attend. Students there gain industry credentials in cosmetology, nursing, horticulture, engineering, and unique to them – marine service technology. Many of the program include Dual Enrollment through their local community college. These students are going places. These students are the hope for their local industries.
Overall, my big takeaway from this past seminar was the connections I could make industry-wise and culturally to past seminars – especially Southwest. Also, the trends in education across the Commonwealth are vital to my VALOR experience. Virginia is a very diverse state, so obviously there’s always new things to learn about each part on the seminars. But what’s even more exciting is to compare and discuss the trends and connections we see across regions and seminar visits.